Mainstream conservatives

The basic problem of American conservatism is that it appeals to tradition while refusing to accept anything but liberty, equality and universal reason as authoritative.

The refusal is of course more apparent than real, since conservatives define themselves as such by their resistance to the logical implications of liberty and equality. Nonetheless, the unwillingness or inability of American conservatives to say what their real principles are cripples them in dealing with challenges and accounts for their inability to maintain any contested position for long.

To survive, conservatism must become much more critical and much more self-conscious than it has been. In an age in which mainstream Republicans can be portrayed as extremists appeals to common sense aren’t enough.

3 thoughts on “Mainstream conservatives”

  1. I’ve always found it easiest
    I’ve always found it easiest to explain conservatism by placing it in relation to liberal individualism. The argument runs: liberals want no impediments to individual desires and must therefore deconstruct aspects of a traditional society which conservatives value.
    It is harder to define conservatism positively in terms of its own first principles, especially in a secular society. I think if such a first principle could be described it would involve something like “a defence of forms of human connectedness and identity”, but this sounds much vaguer than the liberal principle of “do what you want to do, be what you want to be.”

  2. Good comment! It is a
    Good comment! It is a question though whether that kind of abstract universal conservatism can do more than grumble. If not, then what’s necessary is not conservatism but orthodoxy – a particular system of identity and connectedness.

  3. Taking off from Mr. Kalb’s
    Taking off from Mr. Kalb’s point, one could say that one believes in and wants to live in a Christian society. That’s certainly what I believe and want. Then it’s no longer an abstract universal conservatism but a particular conservatism.


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